Friday, October 12, 2012

Badness of Catholicism - or Madness of Protestantism?

the lawfulness of dissembling or concealing the faith

The Protestant author makes heavy weather of the fact that God detests lies - missing the point that St Alphonsus totally forbade direct lies about the faith too. Deliberately? Out of stupidity? Or out of an instinctive anger? I do not know, but one of these it is.

He makes heavy weather about "He who denies me before men ... he who confesses me before men" but again never ever did St Alphonsus in the passages quoted recommend denial. He only said that the duty of confessing is not there in all circumstances, only when not confessing would be tantamount to denying.

If a darkskinned man (North African or Black) who could be a Muslim and who gives me alms in a friendly manner tells me "no problem, my brother" - does that each time oblige me to say - "you are wrong, I am not your brother, since you are a Muslim and I am a Christian, a Catholic"? Even when I am tired? Even when I do not know him? Even when I am not quite sure it is a Muslim?

Even if I when begging habitually hold up links to my blogs (perhaps had no paper for it that time or perhaps did) which very clearly "give me away" as a Catholic?

St Alphonsus also says you may in Heretic countries eat meat on a Friday if the object is to avoid bloody persecution, but not if the only risk you incur is ridicule. I have been less strict, accepting meat on Fridays in hospitality if I could any kind of hope the one giving it was unaware I was supposed to fast from meat that day. So, too me the standard of St Alphonsus seems pretty strict. Now, how many nowadays are prepared to confess a literal faith in a recent creation and in geocentrism - when the only risk incurred is so far ridicule? How many Protestants do confess the Earth to be the immobile centre of the Universe? How many of those who do not make it very clear that and how they still think the account of Joshua's miracle literally true?

In the previous chapter the "Rev" Blakeney similarily totally parodies the Catholic discipline about books, and about Bibles to laymen .. but first to the next chapter: Blakeney says the Catholic position of St Alphonsus is "It is Lawful to do Evil that Good may come of it". Now, this maxim is well known to be false, according to the text "just is the damnation of those that do evil that good may com of it". And of course St Alphonsus knew this text. And what he is discussing is not "doing evil" that a greater evil may be avoided or that a good may com of it. He is discussing cooperation with someone else's evildoing.

Blakeney's position is that servants must rather accept to be flogged than do usual services to their masters if the intent of such services is the same master's unchastity. Irish Catholic priests recommended submission to English rule. If Irish Catholics nevertheless rebelled, it is perhaps because they took a lesson from "Rev." Blakeney about "not cooperating in evil".

Now, St Alphonsus is pretty strict: merely being a servant is not a sufficent excuse for accompanying your master to harlots. You must also be afraid of flogging or beating or something if you refuse. To open the door of your house for a harlot coming home to your master may be excused or even lawful because you are his servant: the principle being that a servant opens doors for visitors. To open unlawfully someone else's doors to make your master visit someone for fornication or adultery is only excusable if otherwise you fear to suffer severe loss.

And Blakeney - "Rev" Blakeney - takes that permission and construes it to the equivalent of a permission of aiding one's master in assaulting the innocent: "the crime of assualt on a female" is his wording for exegesis. Which it is not, St Alphonsus does not mention raptus (rape, abduction), only stuprum (defloration). It may be that Blakeney here was misled by Classicism, insofar as Ancient Romans often used stuprum for "stuprum cum raptu", whereas to Scholastic Moralists stuprum and raptus are two different sins. A gallant person from the young fobs of Naples who had a servant was far more likely to seduce than to assault a lady. Noblesse oblige. St Alphons was talking about things he knew. About servants who under threats of beating had cooperated in such ventures (the fob being less considerate with insubordinate servants than with ladies his own rank, no doubt) and felt guilty about what they had been forced to cooperate in. And St Alphons knows that it is not in everyone to be a hero.

Blakeney here says that no human obedience may excuse any cooperation whatsoever in the sins of someone else. Elsewhere he is very strict on obedience and how Catholic dissimulation of the faith - see above - makes it difficult for rulers and fathers and presumably masters in prosperous Protestant England to get obeyed. He is basically saying a priest should shudder at every "disobedience" (including non-obedience of unjust orders) and at every "sin" (including material cooperation in someone else's sin) and leave to despair someone who is either not obeying or obeying by cooperating with someone doing something unjust. Only the Gospel, the All Powerful Gospel, not its human servants, can in any way helps someone driven to despair. God is all powerful, and can cure every disease, nevertheless we do use medicine according to natural understanding too. He can also convert every sinner into every kind of saint - but some kinds of holiness are more humble and less heroic than what Blakeney allows for. And that power of God does not mean we have no right to use human means about someone else's worst sins. Getting sompeone drunk so that he may not sack a Church or keep a country under Communist occupation springs to mind, and I am grateful Austrians around Vienna did that twice - with Swedes under Oxenstierna and with Russians 1955. According to the principle professed by "Rev" Blakeney, they ought to have stopped handing wine to the Swedes so they could have sacked Catholic Churches in Vienna the next day and also stopped giving the Communists wine risking they refused to sign the freedom to Austria.

Now, I wonder if Blakeney's reading of some texts is not as unsound as that of Skoptsy who read the texts about plucking out one's eyes and cutting off one's hands as recommending surgery - and then went on to do surgery. I do not think access to the Bible - all of the text without any guidance - is the birthright of Skoptsy and I do not think it is the birthright of "Rev" Blakeney either. Which brings us to his complaints about Catholics forbidding the Bible to laymen, except with special permission.

St Alphonsus is cited as citing Pope Innocent XI the 79th Condemned Proposition of Quesnel: It is useful and necessary in every time, in every place, and for every degree of persons, to study and to know the spirit, and piety, and mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Blakeney does not directly argue against Pope Innocent XI and St Alphonsus on that one. For a reason: he must have known himself that Quesnel was wrong. Horace would not have benefitted from reading Leviticus, I am sure, from what he said about "curti Iudaei". If Hercules and Theseus were possibly saved (though that is unsure), it would not seem for having read the Pentateuch either, but rather "in order to please God, it is first of all necessary to believe of him that He is and that He is a rewarder of those seeking Him", as St Peter wrote much later. But let us take the people who had the Pentateuch, did every class of Hebrew read it in the days of King David? Was someone neglecting to read it considered a sinner? Not so. The High Priest read it to the people (to the Qahal - excluding presumably women, children, and excluding certainly slaves and strangers and children of sinners up to some generation) every seven years once. That was what Moses the Godseer and Prophet had prescribed. And for a normal Hebrew to know what the Law commanded of him, he was not supposed to study, but to ask and obey a priest. If the Synagogue of Ezra changed the discipline under the danger of forgetting the law in exile, Christ took his disciples not only from it or not primarily from it, but from Fishermen and a Converted Sinner and a few more. This surely Blakeney knew: though he pandered to a prejudice echoing Quesnel (or echoed by Quesnel, as Quesnel wrote after Protestant Reformation), he could not directly defend it. But he attacked Catholic discipline with dishonesty. First the quote he gives from St Alphonsus:

But they incur excommunication who not only read books of Heretics prohibited as above, but even they who keep them in their possession. On which account he who has them is bound, as soon as he can, according to the precept of Pius IV, to deliver them either to the Inquisitors or to the Bishops. And in speaking concerning kingdoms where the Inquisition flourishes, P. Suarez, with others, says (Barb. dicast. apud Croix, lib. 7 n. 355)*, that he incurs censure who does not deliver up the book although he burns it.

Note that here we are not talking about Bibles read without permission, we are talking about "books of the Heretics" - including such Bibles as the Catholic Church considers as Counterfeits, meaning Tyndale or King James as opposed to Douai Reims (with Catholic Commentaries preferrably, if to be used by laymen). But of course not Bibles in the main, but rather heretic attacks on the Bible (from people like the two Sozzini who denied verbal inspiration or - earlier - Albigensians who rejected the Old Testament) or misinterpretations of the Bible (by people like Luther, Zwingli, Œcolampadius, Bucer, Calvin ...)

Then "Rev" Blakeney's idiotic (deliberately?) misconstruction thereof:

He states further, that others think that the man may be excused, provided he has BURNED THE BOOK! This is then the penalty for violating the Index. If, for example some one hungering and thirsting after righteaousness, should obtain a copy of the Bible, and read it without the permission of the Church, or when that permisison is denied, if he should read the words of everlasting life, which Jesus hath written in the Scriptures [sic!], and in which he speaks to his people ; if he should become such a character as that described in the first Psalm, a man that meditateth in the law of God, then he sins against the Church ; he falls under her ban ; the Inquisition, where it flourishes comes in, searches his house, has him apprehended on the suspicion of heresies, for reading the Bible ; he is put on the rack, and at length that man who "searched the Scriptures daily," is led as a Martyr to the stake. Rome ! Many such deeds hast thou perpetrated. In Spain the Reformation was extinguished by the Inquisition. Throughout our own beloved land did the fires of martyrdom burn.

Now, "violating the Index" is not one and the same sin, but different ones, according to whether one violates the Fourth Rule (which states that superiors decide whether a layman reads Scripture except the parts generally permitted to everyone) or whether it is a matter about forbidden books. Then, even in that case, keeping them is not a matter of the stake, but of simple excommunication. Then again, the Inquisition hardly ever searched for forbidden books except during epidemics of heresy. And the case when possession of Biblical material in Vernacular was definitely regarded as a confession of heresy was precisely, not Spain, but Blakeney's "own beloved land" where Lollards could be burnt on order of a Bishop who had found an Our Father in English on you (Coventry Martyrs of 1511): and in England the Bishops had no Inquisitors at their side. As to extinguishing the Reformation in Spain, yes, Inquisitors did contribute to that, but hardly on the mere charge of possessing a Spanish Bible. Rather by denying the Sacrifice of the Mass or even the Real Presence, not to mention the Free Will, which would stamp one as a Lutheran or Calvinist. And priests and preachers did contribute more than Inquisitors, I reckon, including Cardinal Nebrija and a century later the Jesuits (who could not be Inquisitors according to their rule: St Ignatius of Loyola had been three times a suspect and three times cleared by Inquisition).

The ludicrous part is that "Rev" Blakeney, believing the Book of Martyrs by Foxe, as if it were the Bible, which it is not, talks about Inquisition burning people when he writes in 1852. He does recuperate himself by adding "Many such deeds hast thou perpetrated" in the past tense, though his account of the Inquisition was hardly correctly historical. But his spontaneous words are as if the Inquisition was happening then in Catholic countries. Last burning of a Heretic was, as I have heard, in 1820.

It is also ludicrous that he presumes that a man who hungered or thirsted after righteousness and visibly improved himself on reading the Bible would even according to the Fourth rule of the Index be forbidden to read the Bible, which that same rule says can be given to those who read it with improved piety - in Latin or a Catholic translation, obviously, and if a layman with Catholic comments. Let us now read that fourth rule:

"Since it is manifest by experience, that if Holy Bibles are allowed everywhere, without difference, inthe vulgar tongue, more harm than good would arise from it, on account of the rashness of men. Let the judgement of the Bishop of Inquisitor be abided by in this matter, so that with the advice of the parisdh Priest if Confessor, they may grant the reading of the Bible in the vulgar tongue, translated by Catholic authors, to those whom they shall have ascertained to be likely to derive no harm, but rather an increase of faith and piety from this sort of reading, which permission they must have in writing. But if any one shall presume to read or possess them without permission, he may not receive Absolution of his Sins unless he first deliver up the Bibles to the Ordinary." - (Index Can. Con. Trident. Paris. 1832.)

Is this unreasonable or impious? If you start out with the Unbiblical prejudice that everyone should read the Bible, yes. Otherwise, no. Nothing about burning at the stake is mentioned in this rule of the index any more than that about forbidden books. If possessing forbidden books meant excommunication (which does not mean to burn at the stake in most cases and never meant it in most cases historically, and never meant it in this case), possessing a Bible in vernacular without permission was even more lenient: it meant a refusal of absolution. It meant you did not get Absolution when you confessed and could not approach Holy Communion. And Christ did not say "whoever readeth my words hath eternal life" but he did say "whoever eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life" (St John's Gospel ch. 5). Therefore it is sufficiently clear from the Bible itself that one should prefer Communion to the Bible. But since the penalty for forbidden Bible possession is stated in the rule that Blakeney cites, he had really no business to go out of his way, cite the penalty for another offense, misconstrue it into something monstruous, just because the texts happen to include words like Inquisition and Inquisitor.

If Blakeney was not mad - and I do not think he could have kept up a life as Anglican clergyman if he had been - he certainly did partake of very mad prejudice against the Catholic Church: he goes mad against it and constantly misses the point in his eagerness to condemn. I am happy to say one century later many Protestants are not like that: but they still have a heritage from people like "Rev" Blakeney, insofar as they believe such fables about "Jesuitic morality makes ends hallow means", "Jesuitic morality justifies denying the faith", "forbidden Bibles" and a few more.

Just as Lutherans or Anglicans who believe in Freewill have a heritage from a Luther whose book "De Servo Arbitrio" starts with an outcry against Erasmus, who had written - like St Augustine - a book called "De Libero Arbitrio".

Hans-Georg Lundahl
St Wilfrid's Day
from Médiatèque Musicale
Les Halles, Paris

PS: "Rev" Blakeney and such did harm. Later in the XIXth C. the Kingdom of two Sicilies (where St Alphonsus was Bishop) was sacked by Garibaldi's troupers, and after that soldiers refusing to become loyal subjects of Turin were put into camps in Lombardy, where some died. Yes, Protestantism has contributed to a hatred of Catholicism in which Catholics were put into Concentration Camps.

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